Genesis 23:4

In such a history the representative character of Abraham must be remembered. He was tried not only for his own sake, but that in him all the families of the earth might be blessed.

I. The PREPARATION for this great grace God and Abraham recognizing each other; the servant called by name, responding with the profession of readiness for obedience.

II. The COMMANDMENT is itself a secret communication, a covenant. Do this, and I will bless thee; follow me in this journey "as I tell thee," and thou shalt see my salvation.

III. The simple, childlike OBEDIENCE of the patriarch is reflected in the quiet demeanor of Isaac bearing the wood of the burnt offering, type of Jesus bearing his cross, inquiring for the lamb with lamb-like innocence and patience. "They went both of them together" (Vers. 6 and 8) - "together" in the beginning of the journey, "together" in the end, in the trial and in the blessing.

IV. FAITH which accepts the will of God and takes up the Divine mission WILL COMMIT THE FUTURE TO THE GRACIOUS PROVISION ON WHICH IT DEPENDS. "My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering" (Ver. 8). Already Abraham was saying, "The Lord will provide." We say it sometimes with a fearful burden upon our heart; but when we go steadfastly and hopefully forward we say it at last with the remembrance of a great deliverance sending its glory along the way of our future.

V. THE TRIAL OF THE TRUE HEART IS OFTEN STRETCHED OUT TO ITS LAST EXTREMITY, that the revelation which rewards faithfulness may be the more abundant and wonderful (Vers. 9, 10). We must take God at his word, otherwise we shall not experience the promised deliverance. "Take thy son, and offer him there" (Ver. 2). "And Abraham stretched forth his hand and took the knife to slay his son." What else could he do? The commandment must be obeyed. The obedience must be "good and perfect and acceptable" as the will of God.

VI. AT THE POINT OF ENTIRE SURRENDER APPEARS THE ANGEL, is heard the voice of relief, the assurance of acceptance, the change in the method of obedience, the opened eyes, the provided sacrifice, THE RETURNING JOY OF SALVATION (Vers. 11-13). There is a blindness of self-sacrifice which leads to a sight of immeasurable joy. Abraham saw nothing before him but the plain path of obedience; he went on, and at last "lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold' the self-sacrifice changed into peaceful offering of an appointed substitute (Ver. 13) "in the stead of his son."

VII. THE CLIMAX OF OUR EXPERIENCE AND OF DIVINE MERCY BECOMES TO US A NEW NAME OF JEHOVAH. We know him henceforth by that knowledge of fact. "Jehovah-jireh (the Lord will provide): as it is said to this day, in the mount of the Lord it shall be provided" (or seen) (Ver. 14).

1. Not before the mount, but in the mount; therefore go to the summit and wait.

2. What the Lord will provide will be better every way than what we could provide.

3. The offering on the mount is the great provision, the whole burnt offering for the sins of the world, by which the true humanity is redeemed and the true "joy" ("Isaac," laughter) is retained.

4. The last name of Jehovah which Abraham gave him was Jehovah the Everlasting; now he adds to that name that which brings the Everlasting into the sphere of daily life - "Jehovah-jireh, the Lord will provide." We name that name when we reach the mount where the great sacrifice was provided - Mount Moriah, Mount Calvary.

5. The end of the great trial and obedience was a renewal, a solemn republication, of the covenant. "God could swear by no greater; he swore by himself" (Hebrews 6:13). On the foundation of practical faith is built up the kingdom of heaven, which the Lord swears shall include all nations, and be supreme in all the earth. The notes of that kingdom are here in the history of the patriarch -

(1) acceptance of the word of God,

(2) self-sacrifice,

(3) faith instead of sight,

(4) withholding nothing,

(5) perseverance to the end. Beersheba became now a new place to Abraham, for he carried to the well and grove which he had named after the oaths of himself and Abimelech the remembrance of the Divine oath, on which henceforth he rested all his expectations. After this the man in whom all nations shall be blessed looks round and finds the promise being already fulfilled, and his kindred spreading widely in the earth. - R.

I am a stranger and a sojourner among you.
The Preacher's Monthly.
I. THE EXHORTATION. A true Christian's life should be that of a stranger and a sojourner.

1. Such persons are at once recognized. Marks of nationality may be more or less prominent. Sometimes the foreigner wears a strange costume, and speaks a strange language; and sometimes these things are studiously avoided; he assumes our dress, converses in our dialect; nevertheless, there is always something about him which bespeaks "the sojourner." And so should it be with the Christian.

2. These peculiarities will be observable in all the common business of life. Not, indeed, in any disregard of useful industries and occupations. A wise foreigner, passing through a strange country, will make the best use of his time, mingling with its inhabitants, studying its institutions, observing its manners and customs, examining minutely its improvements in science and art, perhaps investing largely in its agricultural implements, and mechanical machinery, and scientific apparatus, and many of its products and fabrics, ornamental and useful. He may for the time appear, more even than native citizens, attentive to and engrossed by such matters; nevertheless, every man who deals with him perceives that his interest in them is that of a sojourner, who examines and purchases with a view to some use or enjoyment in his own distant land. Just so should it be with the Christian.

3. These marks of a foreigner will be manifest in all the pleasures of life.

4. A foreigner may be known by the opinions he forms and expresses of all things that surround him. Many such things, which to us, through custom and familiarity, seem proper and consistent and natural, will often strike him strangely. This point is finely illustrated in Oliver Goldsmith's " Citizen of the World."

II. As A CONSOLATION. If we are "strangers and sojourners on earth," then —

1. Our better portion and grander heritage and home are in heaven. Like the patriarchs, we should "look for a city whose maker is God!" and, like the apostles, should rejoice to think that presently we shall be "absent from the body and present with the Lord."

2. Strangers and foreigners think ever and most tenderly of their distant native lands. Of the dear doors that will open, and the loved voices that will welcome them, when, having accomplished the ends of their brief sojourn in those stranger-scenes, they cross the ocean, and cast anchor in distant harbours, and go ashore to their own cities. And herein they should be our models. Good as Christian life may be on the earth, yet there are better things in heaven.

(The Preacher's Monthly.)

We shall attempt the task of analysing the relations which Abraham sustained to his heathen neighbours. We perceive at once that they were those of entire friendliness, but of absolute separation. We shall follow, therefore, this simple division of the subject of this chapter.

I. HIS FRIENDLINESS. Mark you, not his " friendship." Let it not be implied that there was any agreement of his principles with theirs, any community of interests between them, or any sympathy in character. He was indeed their friend, but he was not their fellow, and in his friendship there was no fellowship whatsoever. Their life was abhorrent to him. Their practices were such as gave him the greatest pain. The neighbours of Abraham were cruel, covetous, and licentious beyond the very conception of the vast majority who live in Christian lands to-day. But Abraham never ceased to be on friendly terms with them. He never manifested towards them an amicable disposition, treated them with noticeable courtesy and did them signal favours. But Abraham always kept the peace, and never made an enemy among them all. Some of the stories are exceedingly beautiful, as illustrating the existing friendliness. Look, for example, at that of the covenant between Abimelech and Abraham. The feelings which neighbouring chiefs entertained toward Abraham is nowhere better shown than at the time of the sack of Sodom and the capture of Lot and his family. But this was not all. His magnanimity took a higher form and his friendliness was of nobler nature than could possibly have been displayed in any affair of temporal character. Those heathen lay upon his heart. No one ever pleaded for guilty men as Abraham did — save only their Divine Saviour. A praying friend is the best friend, and such was Abraham!

II. Is it possible, then, for one who shows such friendliness to the ungodly, to be also ABSOLUTELY SEPARATE, from them? Yes, Abraham made it plain: so plain that it was clear, not only in his own secret soul — as is so often the case; but clear also to all among whom he sojourned. They would have been glad to have had him identify himself with them. But he would not do so. Nearly seventy years he lived among them; but he was not of them. He was a "confederate" only, never a "compatriot"; a sojourner, never a citizen. As his separation from these sinners is the important thing for us to study, note the following particulars wherein it was manifested. Beginning with the simpler, observe that it appeared —

1. In the food which he ate. A trifling thing, you say, but nothing is trifling whereby the holy is set apart from the unholy. Leaven is produced by fermentation, and fermentation is a species of corruption. Therefore Abraham would have none of it. So, when the three angels appeared to him as he sat in his tent door (Genesis 18:1-5)he was ready to entertain them, and offered at once to "fetch them a morsel of bread" for their "comfort." Ah! it is worth our while to remember that in just such trifles there is a vast difference between the clean and the unclean. As some one has so wisely said, it is by trifles that we reach perfection, and perfection is no trifle.

2. In his dwelling. It was a tent, which could be easily moved from place to place. Had Abraham ever built a house, the whole meaning of his outward life would have been destroyed. It would have indicated that he had come to stay, and have rendered ridiculous his declaration, "I am a sojourner with you."

3. In his private business. His avocation was in keeping with his mission, and his covenant relations to his God. He did not mingle with the ungodly multitudes. The cities, with the glare and glitter of their iniquitous life, had no attraction for him. Lot became covetous of their wealth, ambitious for their preferment, and settled in Sodom; but Lot was not a party to the everlasting covenant — not a "church-member."

4. In his business transactions. He must needs have dealings with men of the world; but he so dealt with them as to emphasize his separateness. He became rich, but he never manifested any undue haste to be rich, nor took any " short cut" to fortune. Observe several illustrations. What a noble spirit he manifested in the dissolution of the partnership existing between himself and Lot. But his principles are more plain, if possible, in his transaction with Ephron, the Hittite (Genesis 23.). The custom of the country was not the law of his life. He was the only man in all the land who conducted his business in this way.

5. Once more: his separation from the world appears in his conquest of the world. Though Abraham was a man of peace, as we have seen, yet it seems most appropriate that once, at least, in his long life, he should have exhibited his peculiar power over the men and agencies of this world. It was spiritual power for physical ends — something of which the world as yet knows little. Chedorlaomer and his allies had sacked Sodom, and were hastening away with the spoils and captives.

(D. R. Breed, D. D.).

Abraham, Arba, Ephron, Heth, Hittites, Mamre, Sarah, Zoar, Zohar
Beersheba, Canaan, Hebron, Kiriath-arba, Machpelah, Mamre
Burial, Bury, Burying, Buryingplace, Burying-place, Dead, Foreigner, Possession, Property, Rest, Sell, Sepulchre, Settler, Sight, Site, Sojourner, Strange, Stranger
1. The age and death of Sarah.
3. The purchase of the field and cave of Machpelah;
19. where Sarah is buried.

Dictionary of Bible Themes
Genesis 23:1-4

     5076   Abraham, life of

Genesis 23:3-16

     5242   buying and selling

Genesis 23:3-20

     7258   promised land, early history

Yet it Follows not that the Bodies of the Departed are to be Despised...
5. Yet it follows not that the bodies of the departed are to be despised and flung aside, and above all of just and faithful men, which bodies as organs and vessels to all good works their spirit hath holily used. For if a father's garment and ring, and whatever such like, is the more dear to those whom they leave behind, the greater their affection is towards their parents, in no wise are the bodies themselves to be spurned, which truly we wear in more familiar and close conjunction than any of
St. Augustine—On Care to Be Had for the Dead.

Epistle iii. To Januarius, Bishop of Caralis (Cagliari).
To Januarius, Bishop of Caralis (Cagliari). Gregory to Januarius, &c. The most distinguished lady Nereida has complained to us that your Fraternity does not blush to exact from her a hundred solidi for the burial of her daughter, and would bring upon her the additional vexation of expense over and above her groans of sorrow. Now, if the truth is so, it being a very serious thing and far from a priest's office to require a price for earth that is granted to rottenness, and to wish to make profit
Saint Gregory the Great—the Epistles of Saint Gregory the Great

Exhortations to those who are Called
IF, after searching you find that you are effectually called, I have three exhortations to you. 1. Admire and adore God's free grace in calling you -- that God should pass over so many, that He should pass by the wise and noble, and that the lot of free grace should fall upon you! That He should take you out of a state of vassalage, from grinding the devil's mill, and should set you above the princes of the earth, and call you to inherit the throne of glory! Fall upon your knees, break forth into
Thomas Watson—A Divine Cordial

Man's Chief End
Q-I: WHAT IS THE CHIEF END OF MAN? A: Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever. Here are two ends of life specified. 1: The glorifying of God. 2: The enjoying of God. I. The glorifying of God, I Pet 4:4: That God in all things may be glorified.' The glory of God is a silver thread which must run through all our actions. I Cor 10:01. Whether therefore ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.' Everything works to some end in things natural and artificial;
Thomas Watson—A Body of Divinity

The Old Testament opens very impressively. In measured and dignified language it introduces the story of Israel's origin and settlement upon the land of Canaan (Gen.--Josh.) by the story of creation, i.-ii. 4a, and thus suggests, at the very beginning, the far-reaching purpose and the world-wide significance of the people and religion of Israel. The narrative has not travelled far till it becomes apparent that its dominant interests are to be religious and moral; for, after a pictorial sketch of
John Edgar McFadyen—Introduction to the Old Testament

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